Stream it or skip it?

Some nature docuseries go all over the place, trying to stick to the themes. But when a show focuses on a geographic area, it becomes more interesting, at least for us. Why? Because you see how the ecosystem works through the seasons and the complete cycle of life that has created such a close-knit environment. A new Netflix series focuses its lens on Vancouver Island.

Opening shot: A sea lion walks along a beach, a thick tropical jungle in the background.

The essence: sea ​​lion island is a three-part docuseries, narrated by Will Arnett and produced/directed by Jeff Turner, that examines the ecosystem on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Despite its location in the Pacific Northwest, its climate is generally temperate and its combination of coastal and rainforest ecosystems make it home to a wide variety of species.

Some, like the sea lion, are exclusive to the island; the sea lion can swim great distances to find food, and we see him with a pregnant wolf named Cedar. She is not the alpha female of her pack, so she must forage alone to ensure her litter is healthy. So if there’s a rotting corpse on a rocky island half a mile away, she has the ability to swim to it.

The series is broken down by season, beginning with spring, with other members of the ecosystem getting the focus of the episode. There’s a male bald eagle who needs to impress his mate with his fish-catching skills so they can mate. A mother sea otter has to let her baby float in cold water to find food to help her nurse. The sea lions feed on a massive swarm of herring that lay eggs until the gray whales appear. The killer whales then show up to chase down a lunch of now well-fed sea lions. Cedar has to give up the meat of a dead otter to the alpha male of the pack, who grabs the carcass and brings it to the alpha female.

Island of the sea lions
Photo: Netflix

What shows will it remind you of? sea ​​lion island would have fit nicely as an episode or two of Our Great National Parks.

Our take: Although Vancouver Island itself is quite large, it is a relatively small area when it comes to what nature documentaries cover. But that approach makes the show more interesting, because we get to see an area and a group of species in different seasons. Surprisingly, summer is the hardest season on the island due to the disappearance of food sources, and that second episode begins with a surprise involving Cedar and the alpha female of his pack.

That surprise shows us how much work it takes to create a story from raw nature images. We suspected as such: We don’t even know if the filmmakers ever followed an individual member of a species or if they followed different members and put them together. But without some plotlines, and Arnett’s ability to go from serious, deep storytelling to some sly stuff about the funniest moments, like a crab getting stuck in the face of a bald eagle, the spectacular scene shot for the series is likely to couldn’t stand up on its own.

But that’s every nature series. What makes this one good is the focus. We don’t go all over the world; we’re showing exactly how closely integrated one species is with another on Vancouver Island. Arnett’s narrative clearly illustrates how different species help each other, even those that are predators of others. And by focusing on such an interesting setting, with marine life and rainforest within walking distance of each other, the viewer can really see how delicate a balance that ecosystem really is.

Sex and skin: There is a mating of eagles. That is all.

Parting Shot: In search of food, Cedar invades the lair of the pack’s alpha female. The alpha female finds her, but the two of them are more at ease with each other than you think.

sleeping star: As with most of these shows, the cinematography is spectacular and takes advantage of 4K HDR video.

Most of the Pilot-y line: In a scene where a mother sea otter and her baby call each other after they part ways is a bit manipulative, but it looks like the baby’s “myops” are recorded live from the scene. Those “meeps” make your heart melt.

Our call: TRANSMIT IT. sea ​​lion island it does what many nature docuseries should do, which is to focus on a geographic area and follow its inhabitants through the different seasons. It is a fascinating spectacle.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting, and technology, but he’s not kidding himself: he’s a couch potato. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon,, vanityfair.comFast Company and elsewhere.

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